Spider Summer

Friday August 20, 2010 @ 11:56 AM (UTC)
"Nest" by Louise Bourgeois
Nest by the late Louise Bourgeois, at SFMoMA

I’m not a summer person. It’s the heat, the unaccustomed dryness. It’s the contrast with the cloudier, rainier summers I remember or imagine from my youth. But these hot temperatures, these gentle breaths of air, these verdant trees stretching out their branches to reach something – each other, the eaves of a house, the railing of a stair – have made an army of creatures in my environs very, very happy.

You notice it first through the kitchen window: a row of lovely spirals bobbing over the lace-leaf maple. Then there are the front stairs, shaded by a lilac tree — a succession of webs. I leave my house now waving my hands like an aspiring zombie, flailing my keys or mail, or bobbing my head from side to side to locate the gem of a spider floating in midair. I trust the neighbors to understand. Once, past the stairs, striding confidently into the wide, unspider-spannable world, I took a web to the face. I got to the car to find spiders busy on the mirror and windshield-wipers.

Leaving the house might seem to be the trouble – the screen door in the back stuck to its frame by an empty egg sac, the large spider that hit my head like a pebble when I stepped through the front door last week – but indoors we find little refuge. I was scrubbing my hair one day in my basement bathroom when I noticed a tiny spider, the color of wilted celery, busy building his first web in the frame of a window above my shower. At the bottom of the sill, another. Another two setting up shop at the top of the shower stall. Another investigating my back brush. This was positively friendly compared to the day when I was drying off and a wolf spider with a silver-dollar leg-radius dropped out of my towel and skittered for the safety under the laundry machines.

I try, gazing out of my window at the row of dessicated egg sacs lining the undersides of the eaves like reversed icicles, to remember that spiders are here to help me, too. I try to think of these lines of white husks as defense: against wasp nests, against the swarming air power of mosquitoes. I do try.

Then I see another spider on the wall and call the cat, who comes bounding. It may be the tone in my voice that tells her it’s time to hunt, but I suspect she has learned the creepetty-crawletty little word: SPIDER.


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